A Travellerspoint blog

That is the raisin at the end of the hot dog

(Það er rúsínan í pylsuendanum) Something that comes as a surprise at the end of something, something extra that wasn’t expected. Usually something positive.

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That is the raisin at the end of the hot dog... the last day in a very unique country could only end with a trip to the Blue Lagoon. We packed our bags and headed out at 9:30am. The Blue Lagoon is between Reykjavik and the airport is it was recommended to do on arrival day or departure day. It is fully set-up for baggage storage and makes a stop on the way to the airport easy and a perfect way to end the adventure.

The best part of the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland's most popular destination, is that is basically waste water. Well not basically, it is waste water. The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37-39 °C. The lagoon is entirely man-made and is fed by the water output (i.e. waste water) of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days.


The other ironic piece of information is the power plant is owned by Alterra Power Corp, a TSX listed, Vancouver based power company. My other regret is apparently we could have toured the plant at the Blue Lagoon (yes I am a loser) but I think it would have been interesting, next time.


After a leisurely morning floating at the Blue Lagoon, a glass of sparkling wine at the Lava Restaurant and one more meal of fresh fish we board our last bus and headed to the airport. We left at 5pm arrived in Edmonton at 4:30pm and were home in bed by 8:30pm all in the same day.

So tonight I sat down with my notes in hand and basically relived the last few days. It was an awesome trip. A beautiful country with lots of great activities and natural wonders. So while we did not manage to watch the Northern Lights dance we had an amazing time and learned about another region in the world. I would highly recommend a visit to Iceland.

So until next time,

Posted by imalazyj 19:11 Archived in Iceland Tagged reykjavik

I come completely from the mountains (Ég kem alveg af fjö

I have no idea what you are talking about

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Pleased to be woken up by my alarm and not the front desk, this day started with a more fulsome breakfast and coffee. We boarded our bus at 8:30am on our way to the Golden Circle. A loop covering about 300 km from Reykjavík into central Iceland and back. The 3 primary stops on the route are the National Park Þingvellir, the waterfall Gullfoss (meaning "golden falls"), and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Though Geysir has been inactive for a long time, Strokkur, on the other hand, continues to erupt at every 5–10 minutes intervals. The natural geological wonders of Iceland.


The guide was awesome and filled my head with stories and loads of useless facts about Iceland. What really started to peak my interest was the vast resource of geothermal energy this country has. It is endless. Basically all of Iceland's power and heat is free, and very, very "green". The geothermal activity is due to the special geological location of Iceland (over a rift in continental plates) and the high concentration of volcanoes in the area. Five major geothermal power plants exist in Iceland, which produce approximately 26.2% of the nation's electricity (two of these are owned by a Canadian based firm). Geothermal heating meets the heating and hot water requirements of approximately 87% of all buildings in Iceland. Being an energy girl I truly find this fascinating. If they could just figure out a battery that didn't require rare earth materials to make and could store large quantities of power this little country would be a super power. There is actually been discussion of building an under ocean power line to Scotland (over 1200 km of line).


After a quick stop at Þingvellir (where we snorkelled yesterday), we continued on to Haukadalur, watched Strokkur erupt and wandered past several bubbling puddles before boarding the bus onto to Gullfoss. The falls are comprised of a wide curved three-step "staircase" and then abruptly plunge in two stages into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. It was here we witnessed the Icelandic poor man's photography session. Picture this, man in tux, girl in pink STRAPLESS dress, camera on tripod and snow. Man sets camera, pushes timer, runs to girl, pose. Repeat. I have witnessed some odd moments but this one is up there in the ordinals for sure.


After witnessing the photo session we headed to the next stop Langjökull (Icelandic for "long glacier") the second largest ice cap in Iceland. This required a change of bus and a hour or so of traveling over a moonscape like terrain (except the snow cover) until we arrived at our snowmobiles. We were outfitted with helmets and snowsuits and off over the glacier we raced. It was awesome and beautiful (and only one jackass flipped his sled over, he was not popular with his wife, albeit she was much more refrained than I would have been had Ger done it).


After an afternoon of sledding we returned to our bus and back Reykjavik for our final dinner in Iceland. Greenpeacers stop reading here. There are several Icelandic delicacies. Lamb is popular which we had at dinner the night before. Skyr, which we thought was yogurt, but is actually a type of soft cheese, made from gelatinous milk curds, was pretty good. Meat soup another local favorite, I tried one lunch and mine was made with lamb (checked two boxes). Fish is ample and any fish is popular and pretty damn amazing.


The more unconventional favourites include horse (didn't try), Svið (Singed and boiled Sheep Head) (nope didn't try this either) and Hákarl (Shark). The shark we had heard lots about, basically that is was rotten. Anyways turns out fresh shark would be highly poisonous, but after curing it is only slightly poisonous. Curing is done by burying it under the ground for 6-12 weeks, then hanging it to dry and ferment for four to five months. Regardless I didn't try it. I did however try Minke Whale, and it was delicious.


The only regret for food I didn't get to try was the famous hot dog. They contain lamb which gives them an unusual flavour, but apparently the magic is in the sauces. A real Icelandic hot dog is served með öllu, with everything on it, which means ketchup, a sweet brown mustard, raw onions, fried onions, and remoulade (a sauce made with mayonnaise and relish). As i missed the hotdog I bought a bottle of mystery Icelandic hot dog sauce for home.


(We also brought a large bottle of Reyka, one of the local vodka's that gives Grey Goose a run for their money for being smooth.

Useless fact, you have noticed the strange letters (I am copy and pasting them from the internet since I have no idea how to turn my keyboard into Icelandic). The Icelandic alphabet has 10 extra letters and a bunch of strange accents. It makes for fascinating and foreign signs fortunately everyone in Iceland speaks English, fluently.

After a great dinner, we headed back for another nightcap (and for me to deal with a trade working from Iceland was fun) and one more sleep before our final day.


Posted by imalazyj 18:18 Archived in Iceland Tagged reykjavik

I took him to the bakery (Ég tók hann í bakaríið)

"I kicked his ass"

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I had a confirmation that our tour was to start at 11:30 am and pick-up was 45 minutes prior so imagine my shock when the front desk called at 8:30am (we were not conscious) to say the bus was waiting. In lightening speed we grabbed our stuff and sprinted downstairs (for anyone who knows me I am completely frazzeled by being possibly "late" nor could I have been "wrong" about the pick-up time). Turns out it was the tour company mistake (of course it was!) but given we were up and ready we went with it. Thankfully we had a bus exchange at a depot where we were able to get some croissants and coffee before heading off to our snorkelling activity.

Snorkelling, in the winter, crazy? Yes, a bit. But this is the chance to snorkel in one of the world's top ten diving sites, the Silfra fissure in Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park. Silfra is positioned between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates, which is slowly drifting apart at a rate of approximately 1-3 millimeters each year. And since the water doesn't really change temperature summer to winter (2 degrees all year round) lots of crazy (stupid?) people partake, us included.


So off we ventured into Thingvellir National Park. This particular area was home to Alþingi, the Icelandic Parliament, established in 930 by the Vikings and remained there until 1798 when it was moved to Reykjavik and is the longest operating Parliament in the World. The other claim to fame of the area is that the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates can be clearly seen in the cracks or faults which traverse the region, including the, Silfra Fissure, where we were about to snorkel.


So outfitted in down onesies and dry suits we waddled to the canyon and jumped in (literally). As the guide said your lips sting for about 30 seconds and then you can't feel them anymore. The visibility was incredible they say up to 150m (my eyesight sucks so I don't think I see that far above ground). It was beautiful and very surreal (it was snowing again never thought I would snorkel while it was snowing) and after about 20 minutes of looking at the rocks (and no longer feeling my toes) we headed back to the van to thaw out.

(I borrowed these from the internet my camera doesn't like near freezing water but this is exactly how it looked).

We headed back to town for a few hours of downtime before our next schedule activity "Northern Lights by Boat". We quickly headed out to explore some more which included another visit to Hallgrímskirkja and up its tower so we could get a view of Reykjavik from above. So worth it, it is from above you really see all the bright colours and little streets.


As we headed in for an early dinner at a local fish eatery I received an email due to weather (more snow) the boat had been cancelled. So our evening was freed up to have a fantastic meal of local seafood and maybe a glass or two of wine. The next day, baring any tour company mistakes we would have an 8:30 pick-up for our activity 'Gullfoss, Geysir and Langjokull Snowmobiling'


Posted by imalazyj 17:56 Archived in Iceland Tagged reykjavik

Day One? Day Two?

To lay your head in water (Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti) - "To take some time to think about something, maybe to find a solution to a problem or a new way to do things."

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Not sure what day this actually was since it was 9 am when we arrived at the hotel but only 2 am in our time zone. Regardless we checked in (thank you Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, for the early check-in), grabbed something to eat and then fell into a coma for a few hours as it was still dark. This country has extreme swings in daylight, this time of year sunrise was 10:30ish and sunset 4:30ish. Iceland goes from a period of complete light (June) to only a few hours of light (Dec, Jan). One of the reason we went to Iceland in January was because of the darkness and the hope we would see the Northern Lights. Turns out while I think that happens, it is rare. The weather in Iceland is highly variable (if you think it changed quickly in Calgary go to Iceland it is amazingly fast!).

When we emerged from our coma we set out and walked around Reykjavik (in the pouring rain, sun, sleet and maybe snow). The most famous landmark (at least for me, the most famous might actually be the Penis Museum (and no I didn't make that up)) was the Hallgrímskirkja, the large Lutheran church with unique front. The church took 40+ years to build construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986, the landmark tower being completed long before the church's actual completion. The city is colourful at times with short buildings (Iceland has over 1500 earthquakes a month, most small but sometimes not so small, no skyscrapers here). Graphitti seems to be encouraged on the buildings and often is quite beautiful. We returned to our hotel damp but pretty pleased with our appropriate attire (being from Canada has its advantages).


The evening activity was "Warm Bath, Cool Lights" Tour. We were picked up at 6 pm (again super efficient) and headed out Laugarvatn, a small town (200 people) situation on a lake containing geothermal springs under its surface. The idea was we might catch the aurora borealis on the way with the followed by a stop at the Laugarvatn Fontana. A spa with warm geothermal pools and natural, hot, steam rooms. The weather meant significant cloud cover so while we could see the Northern Lights faintly they were pretty muted. We didn't let the blizzard stop us and it was surreal swimming in the pools while at times getting pelted in the head with snowicles (not quite hail not quite snow). We even dipped our toes in the lake which was warm but not that warm! Dinner was served and we got our first taste of Rúgbrauð an Icelandic straight rye bread. Traditionally it is baked in a pot or steamed in special wooden casks by burying it in the ground near a hot spring, in which case it is known as hverabrauð or "hot-spring-bread". The bread is crustless, dark and very dense, usually rather sweet, and keeps for a long time (very yummy)!


We returned back on the bus again hoping for a glimpse of the colourful Northern Lights but again cloud cover prevented us from seeing them. We had one night cap (eating and drinking is NOT cheap here, a GLASS of wine was $20 and that was the cheap glass). The next day we had a 10:30 am pick-up for our next activity, "Where the Continent Divides."


Posted by imalazyj 17:50 Archived in Iceland Tagged reykjavik

On with the butter (Áfram með smjörið)

Welcome to Iceland - On with the butter meaning "move your butt and keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing"

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I am writing this in hindsight since we had what Ger likes to call the "Greenall Bootcamp" pace while we were in Iceland and we had very little down time. We had just spent two days in Lake Louise at a conference (thank you Peters & Co for another great time). While it was an Energy Conference the speakers were focused on other aspects of our industry versus traditional oil & gas. We listened to experts talk about water, nuclear and likely the highlight for me Dr. Patrick Moore a Canadian scientist and former president of Greenpeace Canada. His comments on climate change were fascinating and provided a different perspective to a well debated topic. It was a good lead in to traveling to what I liked to call the "geological wonderland".

We left Lake Louise Friday, Ger went to work, I did some last minute packing and we grabbed our 7pm flight to Edmonton (long boring story to why we flew but a large reason was to see Ger's Dad on our way out). Our flight to Iceland was direct from Edmonton, 6 hours and we left at 5pm right on schedule. Icelandair is a lovely airline, nice seats each with a headrest that includes a Norse God's name (mine was Thor, the god of war and thunder and protector of mankind). Nice touch. The other nice touch and is actually noteworthy is the safety video. Icelandair rocks it. It is filmed outside (so when you put your life jacket on you see a couple with a lifejacket jumping off a waterfall to stimulate the slide, absolutely brilliant. I actually watched it!).


Flight was uneventful, good food, more than one glass of wine. Finally watched Everest (I liked it) and the terrible Vince Vaughn movie, Delivery Guy. We landed in Reykjavik at 7am and for the first time ever in all our travels, had to clear security before being allowed in the main terminal. Strange. We cleared customs and headed to our bus. Dark, pouring rain and gusting wind. Hmmm.

Couple of notes, any one interested in tourism or marketing should go to Iceland. This country has it nailed for attracting people from all over the world to visit the tiny island for a quick stop over (fly to Europe with a free stop in Iceland) to an extend trip. The activities offered and the ease of shuttling people to them was amazing. For example, we took the Flybus from the airport to hotel, super easy to book, comfortable bus (all buses are outfitted with wifi), and dropped us right at our hotel. That impressive service continued the whole trip.

Random Facts about Iceland
- It has a population of 329,100 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. At time it feels Canadianish (think Newfoundland) while at the same time feeling very foreign.
- Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. That means the temperature was 5-2 Celsius pretty much the whole time we were there (when it is pouring rain or pelting you with hail it is still cold!).
- Tourism is a huge part of Iceland's GDP, over 1mm visitors per year. It is full of fabulous activities so I can see why.

Posted by imalazyj 16:37 Archived in Iceland Tagged reykjavik

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